Let me begin by saying that The Fresh Market is quite a dangerous place, unless you happen to have an endless supply of money. The ambiance is always much nicer than the local Kroger—meaning there aren’t clusters of homeless people loitering outside—with lush floral displays, tables stacked with nuts and candy, rows of fresh herbs and spices, a spotless deli and yummy coffee samples.
I went to pick up some vegetables and also a catfish fillet for the catfish creole I planned to cook for dinner, enough to last the week. I had to force myself to leave behind unnecessary temptations, like an overpriced container of dark chocolate almonds. At this point, though, I kind of wish I had purchased the almonds and scrapped the catfish.
My hands, after three soap and water scrubs and a spritz of perfume, still smell like they were recently elbow-deep in a giant catfish corpse. As I cooked, my small kitchen, which is door-less and attached to my studio apartment, quickly absorbed the pervasive scent of a vagina that has never been washed.
Sorry, I think I took that one too far.
Anyway, after such an appealing preface, allow me to share this recipe with you. Maybe you’re more accustomed to handling raw fish and not as sensitive to the pond-like odor.
First, you’ll need a catfish fillet. Preferably fresh, not frozen. When you cut this bad boy into 3/4-inch chunks, your knife will catch disturbingly on little strings in the meat. Or maybe that just happened to me because I literally have two “sharp” knives, which are maybe a little sharper than a butter knife.
As a vegetarian who eats the occasional fish dish (meaning, at a restaurant or a frozen salmon fillet I stick in the oven), I’m not used to handling any kind of raw meat. This took some courage. But I—ever the amateur—thought it would all be worthwhile.
You’ll want to start cooking your rice first, especially if you’re cooking brown rice (that’s what I use). One cup of uncooked rice is about four servings. That’s how much I prepared, since I thought this was a recipe that could sustain me for a few days.
In a medium saucepan (I’ve never fucking heard it called that except in recipes. So, just a pan), bring the following to a boil: a 16 oz. can of stewed tomatoes (with the juice), 2 tsp. dried minced onion, 1 tsp. vegetable bouillon (the original recipe called for chicken, but I used a vegan one…it also called for “granules,” and who the hell knows what that is, or even what a bouillon is. I used a cube), 1/2 tsp. dried oregano, 1/4 tsp. garlic powder, and 1/8 tsp. hot pepper sauce (hot sauce? The hell? I used some sriracha).
I also added about 1/2 c of sliced up carrot, as well as a sliced up green bell pepper. Because, you know, I wanted to waste as much food as possible.
Add in the slimy catfish chunks and cook them until tender. Or you can do what I did and cook them for an indefinite amount of time, until they literally start disintegrating into the creole mixture. I thought overcooking would make it more bearable—some psychological quirk.
You’re technically supposed to cover the pan, but I didn’t have a lid large enough. So, I tried to use a cutting board. That didn’t exactly work…it started to smoke.
Catfish are maybe the most horrifying things found in freshwater. It absolutely stuns me that anyone would think it a good idea to grab them with their bare hands. I mean, that sounds absolutely like a punishment.
I think I forgot how fishy they taste. Maybe “fishy” isn’t the right word. Maybe “exactly like the bottom of a pond” would be more accurate. This seems logical, since catfish are bottom feeders and spend their nights eating all the debris and shit at the bottom of bodies of water and also looking heinous.
Serve the catfish creole over the rice. I tried to eat some, discovered that I could NOT get the smell of raw fish off of my hands, and shoved it all into my refrigerator. Then I opened my window, lit two candles, and doused my wrists in my strongest perfume. Everything still smells like the asshole of the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Tonight’s dinner was a bowl of cereal and half a peanut butter sandwich, served with a side of self-pitying, hormonal, regressing, I-just-want-someone-to-cook-me-dinner-but-I-only-live-with-a-brainless-feline tears (cat wouldn’t even eat the stuff! And he eats rubber bands!)
We live and we learn, friends. Now I know to buy the chocolate almonds next time and call it a night.